Why didn't anyone think of this before? If you like baklava, you will love this! It really tastes authentic - sweet and nutty and chewy. The layers aren't as flaky as the normal fillo dough, but the matzah is so much easier to work with. This can be assembled in short order in advance and served as needed at the seder or throughout the week. This is an adaptation of a recipe credited to Israeli chef Einat Admony of Restaurant Taim in New York City. I've taken the general idea of substituting matzah for the fillo dough and used my own standard baklava filling and syrup (see the year-round Baklava recipe), with the one addition of cardamom. If you can't find kosher-for-Passover rose water or orange blossom water, you can leave this out. I tested this recipe using butter and the result was delicious. (For a pareve version, use unsalted pareve kosher-for-Passover margarine, but I can't vouch for the results.)
6 sheets of plain matzah
For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups water
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rose water (or orange blossom water)
For filling and assembly:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
2 cups walnuts, chopped coarsely (or a combination of walnuts and pistachios)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Hold each sheet of matzah under cold running water until it is wet on both sides. Place the matzah sheets between damp paper towels and let stand for about 2 hours or until the matzah is pliable. It should not be soggy or falling apart.
To make the syrup, boil together the sugar, water, honey, lemon juice, and rose water. Simmer for 10 minutes and then remove from the heat and let stand until ready to use.
In a large bowl, combine the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Divide into 6 small bowls, each with approximately 1/3 cup of the mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.
Brush an 8-in. by 8-in. pan with the butter. Take one sheet of matzah, place on the counter or table, and roll gently with a rolling pin in both directions. This will slightly flatten and enlarge the matzah.
Transfer the matzah sheet to the pan, brush with melted butter, and evenly sprinkle 1/6 of the nut mixture on the top. Repeat with the remaining sheets of matzah and 4 more of the nut mixture portions, ending with a matzah sheet brushed with margarine on top. Reserve the last nut mixture portion for later.
Bake the baklava until golden, about 25 minutes (but check at 20 minutes to be safe). Transfer to a rack and immediately pour the syrup over the entire top. Sprinkle with the reserved nut mixture. Let cool completely, uncovered, until the syrup is mostlyl absorbed.
Once cool, cover and let sit on the counter at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. Do not refrigerate. Cut the baklava with a sharp knife into small squares or diamonds. The pieces look beautiful when served on simple small plates.
Jamie Stolper is the Food Editor for ShalomBoston.com.